Trying out some unconventional music

MARSHALL – It was a project kids loved, Nancy Van Beek said, as she held up a contraption made from a cardboard tube, a latex glove and a drinking straw. Parents, not so much.

The reason why was clear when Van Beek blew into the straw, producing a loud, weird note.

“It’s like a tuba,” said one of the area students gathered in front of her.

“It sounds like an elephant,” called out another.

The lesson in unorthodox music-making was one of the sessions offered at Wednesday’s Conference for Young Artists, held at Southwest Minnesota State University. More than 1,000 students from schools around southwest Minnesota came to Marshall to take part in the event. Kids could participate in a wide variety of art classes, ranging from pottery and sculpture to different styles of drawing and painting.

Van Beek’s class on making musical instruments was a new offering this year. She showed kids how to make a kazoo out of tongue depressors, paper and rubber bands, and she also helped them make the cardboard-tube instrument she called a “tubellow.”

To make their tubellows, students taped latex gloves over the ends of cardboard tubes. Straws taped in the gloves’ fingers became mouthpieces. The instruments worked a little bit like bagpipes, with the sound coming from air vibrating the gloves.

It took a little work to get the tubellows to sound right. At first, Worthington Elementary students Zach Veen and Garrett Clark went red in the face trying to play theirs. But, Clark said, “It’s awesome.”

“They’re cool. I bet my little sister is going to try to steal it,” said student Angie Hurtado.

Meanwhile, Lake Benton Elementary students Madison Nielsen and Alani Talley were busy putting together their kazoos and humming out tunes on them.

‘This was actually pretty easy to make,” Talley said.

Van Beek encouraged the group to try experimenting with their new instruments. For example, gluing objects to the outside of the tubellow might change its sound, she said.

“When you are inventing a musical instrument, once you make the sound, the next thing is how you change the sound,” Van Beek said.

But maybe give it a rest around Mom and Dad.